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Yesterday, I hadn’t. But today…I have.

After nearly four years, lots of struggle, pain, heartache, and perseverance…

I just finished my first novel.

A draft anyway—but a damn solid one in my novice opinion. And with a full day to spare before my Christmas deadline.

Sure I’ve got some cleanup to go back and do, resulting from the plot-surgery I did over the summer. But I’ve got my list ready and none of it intimidates me.

I’ve wanted to know what this feels like for a long, long time. Sure, almost four years on this story alone, but it was a full 20 years ago that I truly dove in to my first novel (later abandoning it).

For the record (and for all you aspiring novelists out there), it feels really incredible. Inspiring. Liberating. Powerful.

Today, I am (technically) a novelist.

Can’t wait to start the next one.

Write on! And on, and on, and on…

Writer’s conferences are a double-edged sword. On one hand, you expose yourself to other writers’ sagacity and experiences that you would not otherwise encounter, expanding your horizons and possibly giving you a fresh perspective.

On the other hand, you also open yourself up to the sob stories, tales of woe, and harsh realities of the writing and publishing industry, which can snatch the wind from your sails faster than a slaughtered albatross.

The conference at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop was of the first kind.

The one this past spring in Badgerland was of the latter.

So many of its speakers and attendees were quick to relay the “truths” and statistics that serve only to muddy the waters of creative process: the unlikelihood of finding an agent, the slim chances of getting published, the even slimmer chances of your first book selling well (and the likelihood it will be your last), and of course, the absolute impossibility of ever making a living writing fiction.

One of those painful tidbits is looming large these days. Read the rest of this entry »

Forty.

40. 4-D. Two score. Four dimes. Over-the-hill. The mid-point. Intermission. Halftime. On the flip side. The start of Act II. The third quarter. Entering my fifth decade. Coasting downhill. Past my prime. The dawn of middle age. The beginning of the end.

Yes, it’s true. I recently passed the arbitrary milestone that carries with it enough gravitas and gloom to bring even the most spry and vigorous traveler to at least a brief period of introspection, if not melancholy.

Truthfully, becoming a quadragenarian did weigh on me some. Not so much for the age or the number itself (such trivialities as round numbers do not impress me), but rather in examination of my life and how, on the surface at least, I largely am right where I was a decade ago.

I entered my thirties living in the same house in the same city in the same job with the same company in which I find myself now. I had an unfinished novel at the time, and I still have one (albeit, a different one). And while I have much to show for that same decade—in knowledge, and love, and friendship, and maturity, and wisdom, and experience, and even writing—it is also a stone cold reminder how fleeting time can be and, when our daily schedules and surroundings remain unchanged, how quickly we can lose awareness of its passing.

In addition to that realization, it also was just over a year ago that, creatively charged after my trip to the Writer’s Workshop, I boldly purposed to have this novel drafted as a 40th birthday present to myself.

Well, the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men… Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve had a couple of really productive weeks now, making huge gains on both of my writing days. Once I set things in motion, scenes are flowing out of me rather smoothly and I have a lot of confidence that what is getting down on the page is pretty good, for a first draft at least.

As the story evolves, however, I find myself starting to recognize that some things I’ve written will have to change, move, or even be deleted entirely.  I’ll be working on a chapter and remember that something I had written much earlier might conflict with what I had just put on the page. Then, once I knew about it, it would needle me, popping up again and again in my head, nagging me to go back and change it.

I’ll admit, I did a little of that, the going back and changing. Just a touch. One big conflicting piece that simply had to be moved and edited. I had to in order to keep moving the story forward. But beyond that one instance, I decided to make a few notes and leave the rest be for now.

Mistake? We’ll see. But my logic was based on the fact that I am SO close to reaching a major milestone—basically the end of the set-up and exposition—that to turn back now would be almost entirely self-defeating.  Indeed there is something to be said for the motivating power of momentum.

Here’s the deal: the ten chapters I’ve written thus far all lead up to two significant scenes, likely told in two chapters, one of which I’m ¾ of the way through. These scenes are tough; they involve a lot of careful wording and, since the story is written as a 3rd person narrative with limited omniscience, a high degree of fairness and introspection from the two main characters involved. In other words, I’ve got to adequately and realistically portray both characters’ thoughts, emotions, and inclinations, while still bringing them together in what would otherwise be a relatively unrealistic scenario. But hey, I can do that; I’m the author and that’s what fiction is all about.

In any case, knowing how good it will feel when I’ve finished these scenes and reached the milestone, I want to keep trudging toward that. Then perhaps I’ll take a little break, circle back and see what pieces I’ve left out-of-place or no longer need.

Until then, write on.

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